If you’ve just spent hundreds of dollars on an Xbox One and are feeling a little financially tapped out, don’t worry: the console has a growing list of free-to-play games that are worth checking out. For years, free-to-play games have been relegated to the PC and mobile side of gaming, but some stand-out examples are finally making their way to consoles.
Below, we take a look at the five best free-to-play games available on Xbox One. As for our methodology, we surveyed all of the free-to-play games listed on Metacritic with exceptional praise all around, creating a composite score including both critic and user ratings (e.g. a game with a 95 critic score and 9.3 user score would receive a 94 composite score). This should gives us the clearest picture of how well the games were received overall between the time of release and now.
5. Killer Instinct
The classic fighting game from the ’90s is back in an all-new Xbox One exclusive, with much better graphics and more intense gameplay than before. With a heavy focus on combos, this game lets you string together a series of moves into a torrent of pain for your opponent. The only catch is that the person you’re pummeling is always on the lookout for combo-busting opportunities that can quickly turn the tide of the match.
The free-to-play model lets you try out the game with a limited character set for free, but asks you to open your wallet to buy new fighters either individually or in groups. Developer Rare is constantly working on updates and puts out bundles of new fighters regularly.
4. World of Tanks
World of Tanks is an intricate online war game that focuses — as you can probably tell from the title — on tank battles. You and your fellow tank drivers roll into the fray against an army of enemy tanks. From there it’s a slower experience than you’ll get with shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield, thanks to the lumbering size and power of the vehicles you’re piloting.
Despite the gradual pace of the game, there’s plenty of fun to be had and strategy to uncover. Many of the complaints about the game revolve around its unfriendliness to newcomers, as there’s a big difference between the skill level and tank hardware of new and veteran players. But if you stick it out, you’ll find a rock-solid vehicular shooter that keeps you coming back with a breadcrumb trail of upgrades.
3. Project Spark
Project Spark is a game that lets you make other games. If you take the time to learn how to use the tools provided, you’ll have a great deal of power at your fingertips to make whatever kind of game you want. The problem is that figuring it out can be tedious and frustrating.
But don’t let that stop you from trying. Whether you’ve always thought you had a good game in you or you’re seriously considering a career in the field, Project Spark gives you the tools to get a game out of your head and onto the screen. It may not be a traditional game like the others on this list, but it’s free and it’s certainly worth a look.
Smite is a multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA for short). This growing genre has caught on big time on PC, with games like League of Legends, Dota 2, and Heroes of the Storm attracting millions of players, but it hasn’t made much of a splash on consoles yet.
That said, Smite is a great first step toward introducing console gamers to MOBAs. The game puts you in the shoes of a Greek, Mayan, Chinese, or Norse god and has you team up with other players to fight against an equally powerful team of gods. But unlike most MOBAs, there’s no auto-attack option here. You have to personally aim and land each attack, which brings a more hands-on feel to the action than other similar games. If you’ve ever wanted to give a MOBA a shot, Smite is a fine place to start.
1. Pinball FX2
Pinball games don’t appeal to everyone, but many people find something irresistible in the sounds, flashing lights, and split-second reflexes required to keep the ball moving on a well-made pinball table.
The core game is free, so you can try it out before plunking down cash to buy additional tables. There are loads of licensed tables to choose from, based on franchises like Star Wars, Street Fighter, Marvel and more. If pinball is your game, there’s no reason not to give this one a shot.